The president of RTVE, José Manuel Pérez Tornero, has announced that he will resign in the next few hours after a year and a half at the helm of the public corporation. Tornero came to this position after an agreement in February 2021 between the two major parties, PSOE and PP, one of the few that existed in this legislature. However, in recent times he had lost the support of a very important sector of the Board of Directors, the closest to the PSOE and United We Can, which accused him of having given himself up to the PP and surrounding himself with managers close to this party. In addition, the data of his management is not good, since the audience continues to fall. Tornero has made public his resignation in a statement in which he claims his management, but admits that “the factors to sustain the viability” of his project no longer exist. The still president of RTVE assures that within the board of directors “the minimum conditions for transversal consensus no longer exist and sometimes not even the climate conducive to the dialogue that we need to complete the project.” “I came to add and build, and I’m leaving with a clear conscience,” he concludes in the letter to the workers.
The political reality is that Tornero now only had the support of the PP and some loose advisers, but had lost that of the PSOE and United We Can. The socialists’ discomfort with his management was very evident in private, although publicly they avoided criticizing him. The advisers close to the PSOE had practically broken ties with him in recent months. The two from United We Can were even more distant, and in fact they made a report in May that was very critical of the selection of the house’s tertulianos. The text was used by former Vice President Pablo Iglesias to recently charge in his program La Base against the president of RTVE, whom he derisively called “the most outrageous journalist in the entire world.” The situation was increasingly untenable because Tornero had lost the majority with which he came to the presidency.
From the beginning, Pérez Tornero has faced a board of directors that is fragmented and segmented into blocks. A good part of his most controversial proposals have been endorsed by the three members of the PP, while he has encountered the opposition of the two representatives of United We Can and two of the four councilors proposed by the PSOE. On occasion, even the PNV appointee has voted against the president’s initiatives.
In the background of this fall there is a political battle that began shortly after his appointment. In fact, the PSOE agreed to agree with the PP on the new leadership of RTVE, something that the PP did not do when it governed, but in return it trusted that the popular would renew the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ). A year and a half after that agreement, the governing body of the judges has not yet been renewed and, however, according to the interpretation of the PSOE and United We Can, the PP has increasing influence on RTVE. Tornero cannot be dismissed except by parliamentary agreement. Therefore, he has to resign once it is verified that he has lost the majority support in the Board of Directors of RTVE, which meets on Tuesday in an ordinary way.
The most likely solution now is to find someone to hold the position on an interim basis, perhaps another counselor, because to elect a successor you have to seek a consensus in Congress between the PSOE and the PP, which right now seems unfeasible when there is not even an agreement to renew the Constitutional Court and much less the Council of the Judicial Power. In a year that is already beginning to be electoral, it seems difficult now to build that consensus, so that interim could stretch even until the elections, although nothing seems decided at the moment and everything is open to negotiations between the two major parties.
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To assess the situation in which RTVE remains, its general secretary, Alfonso Morales, requested a report on Sunday from the corporation’s legal advice with the aim of determining the steps to follow after the resignation of its president, according to sources from the state group . Both the Government and RTVE are evaluating the circumstances in which Alberto Oliart’s resignation occurred in 2011. The options are to establish a rotating system among the nine directors, something unlikely, or elect a provisional president, in which case Elena Sánchez (proposed by the PSOE) is among the favourites.
RTVE was always controlled by the ruling party, first by the PSOE until 1996 and then by the PP until 2004. But the socialist José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero changed history and the law and agreed with Mariano Rajoy, then in the opposition, a RTVE of consensus chaired by Luis Fernández, which was the most prestigious and received many informative awards. Later, when Rajoy came to the PP, one of the first things he did was change the law to control RTVE again without consensus with the opposition, and the workers rebelled against the manipulation of the news. With the arrival of Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias in power, tensions initially returned and a president was elected who was not a consensus between the two major parties, Rosa María Mateo, after unsuccessful votes in Congress. But in 2021 the PSOE again agreed with the PP the new president, Tornero, who has lasted 18 months. The Socialists are convinced that the Popular Party will do like Rajoy if they come to power and will control RTVE directly again, without consensus with the opposition.
Whoever occupies the presidency of the corporation will face a low television. In the last year and a half, during Pérez Tornero’s mandate, TVE has not only not improved audiences but has worsened them. The main channel closed August with an audience share of 8.1%, the lowest figure in its entire history. The programming strategy has been highly questioned by some members of the board of directors. The most resounding criticism has come from the CC OO union, aligned with the postulates of United We Can, according to which “only in the stage of information manipulation experienced in the years of the Government of Mariano Rajoy were higher levels of discredit reached.” Many RTVE workers share the idea that Pérez Tornero allied himself with “dangerous fellow travelers” and turned his back on a staff made up of 6,500 people.
In a note dated mid-September, CC OO predicted the immediate future of Pérez Tornero. “The fall has begun and it is irremediable. The chaos in management is embedded in each direction of the RTVE corporation. The president has not known how to generate trust dynamics, quite the contrary, he has shown his inability to work as a team. The order and command imposed by him and by his chief of staff, José Juan Ruiz, are leading RTVE to a quagmire”.
The deterioration of relations between the president and some of the councilors began with the decision to put an end to the program Las cosa claras, a long and tenacious claim by the PP in the parliamentary control commission. Pérez Tornero canceled the program and handed over the head of his presenter, Jesús Cintora, an exit that United We Can described as “political dismissal.” In the space that this program occupied, the production company Cuarzo has now been installed with Hablando Claro, a format that combines information and entertainment, a cocktail that was highly questioned by the president himself in Congress.
Both CC OO and United We Can maintain that the public channel has become one of the media terminals that work to hit the Executive. “TVE hands over to the PP the editorial line of La hora de La 1”, says a union study, according to which in the week of June 20 to 24, 60% of the commentators who appeared were from media associated with the right .
Some of the recent additions have also sparked protests. The arrival of the journalist Josep Cuní at RTVE was ironically received as a “saving signing”. Particularly battered was the premiere of The Great Confusion, piloted by Javier Sardá, considered “infoembarrassing”. Not everything is critical. The union section of UGT in RTVE has lamented this Monday the resignation of Tornero, both “for human and management capital” and for the “crucial” moment in which it occurs.
Pérez Tornero has dealt with controversies related to the hiring of personnel. The appointment of two directors from his professional and work environment for the subdirectorate of Transparency of Knowledge and the subdirectorate of the Projects and Development Area sparked a heated debate in Congress. ”It was carried out through a public contest. And I had no art or part, ”the president wanted to settle.
In the economic field, RTVE expected to close the 2021 financial year with an estimated profit of 46 million euros, despite not having closed the contributions of the television and telecommunications operators that contribute to its financing. But the drop in advertising has had a negative impact on those companies. If their income drops, the rate that they must pay to RTVE also falls. With a budget of one billion euros and income that could decrease if the Government exempts the telecoms from contributing funds, the situation is critical. The debt could exceed 580 million euros this year.
United We Can reject Pérez Tornero
Podemos has reacted quickly to the resignation of the president of RTVE. Formation sources have indicated this Monday: “Pérez Tornero was chosen by PSOE and Podemos and placed himself under the orders of the PP; it is good news that he is leaving public TV after the damage he has done.”
Podemos’ disagreement with Tornero’s decisions became evident practically from the beginning of his term. The formation came out in a storm to criticize the closure of the program Las cosas claras in July 2021, when it had barely been on the grid for eight months and reaped high ratings. The current affairs magazine and political gathering led by the journalist Jesús Cintora had PP and Vox among its main detractors. The party led by Ione Belarra believes that under the presidency of Pérez Tornero, public television has gone to the right. Another moment of friction came when it came to light last December that Tornero had profited during his managerial stage at the Autonomous University of Barcelona with private businesses that he did through two companies owned by him. “The published information is serious. On the one hand, the hiring of people related to his family business at RTVE. On the other hand, the alleged breach of the law regarding the incompatibility between private economic activity and the performance of certain positions in public universities”, then questioned the parliamentary spokesman for United We Can, Pablo Echenique. “The first thing is that he gives explanations about all this in parliament and, from there, we will see if further action is possible,” he warned, questioning his continuity. The formation has also presented various questions throughout this year in Congress addressed to Tornero or the Administration about the alleged violation of the freedom of expression of RTVE journalists or the attempt to cancel the broadcast of an LGTBI film on the network. .
Official PP sources have criticized Tornero leaving RTVE: “It is one more example of institutional deterioration”, they have assured, reports Elsa García de Blas. The president of Ciudadanos, Inés Arrimadas, has also been very critical on Twitter: “Outrageous: the interest of the government on duty puts and removes those responsible for public broadcasting. This happens when PSOE, PP, Podemos and PNV share it out. An embarrassment that we would have saved the Spanish with a public contest like the one we defend from Cs “, reports Virginia Martinez.
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